Skip to main content

Reply to this post | See parent post | Go Back
View Post [edit]

Poster: duckpond74 Date: Jul 23, 2011 9:12am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: improv style, jazz vs. classical, drama

" I have always wanted to hear traditional jazz playing and free playing within the same musical frame - start with a standard head and play solos, then have the players break the solo structure and start playing motivically, possibly let it go atonal, then work back to the original."

So, bkidwell, what do you think about Bill Frisell, Charlie Hayden and especially Burnt Sugar: The Arkestra Chamber?

Are you familiar with Charles Lloyd's 'The Water Is Wide'?

Given your interesting discussion with jerlouvis and others here, curious to get your take on these folks and their work.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: bkidwell Date: Jul 23, 2011 12:19pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: improv style, jazz vs. classical, drama

I wish I had a better answer for you than: "Love Bill Frisell, a true master. I only really know Haden from his work with Ornette and Jarrett, haven't heard his work as a leader. Burnt Sugar is new to me. I only know Charles Lloyd from his appearances with the GD, if that is even actually him."

I only have expert-level knowledge of European classical music and the Grateful Dead, and within the jazz world, I'm pretty ignorant (in comparison) of everything post-1975. It's not that I don't enjoy and appreciate the music, it's just that I love Schumann and Mozart and the GD so much it can be hard to find the time to really listen and explore new things.

I always hear the music of the best classical composers, and the best work of the GD, as having a certain really sophisticated musical language, with a lot of implicit "rules" about how the notes are chosen and what they signify. One of the reasons why I am always trying to claim that the improv of the GD is more like classical composition than jazz of any kind is that I rarely hear that sense of "precise meaning" in jazz, even that of skilled modern improvisers.

I tend to hear the jazz style, in both free and structured contexts, as more impressionistic, and not as focused on the significance of the individual note. A lot of it has to do with different concepts of musical harmony, I think. If you look at the way chords are used in jazz, it is very different from what is called "functional harmony" in classical music. This is a complex and subtle topic that goes in a really technical direction - the basis of harmony in the overtone series, how our ear perceives the relation of harmony and melody, and then trying to understand the relation of atonality or alternative chords and scales to these things.

One technical aspect of this is that rock music uses the mixolydian mode as the default, rather than the major scale. The mixolydian mode doesn't contain a major dominant, and the major dominant is the foundation of how harmonic tension works. I'll stop now because if I write more, I won't be able to stop.

"The decline of the dominant and the rise of flat seven: is functional harmony possible in rock tonality? Studies in Grateful musicology, volume XVII, coming soon!"

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: duckpond74 Date: Jul 24, 2011 10:51am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: improv style, jazz vs. classical, drama

"I only have expert-level knowledge of European classical music and the Grateful Dead ..." and that is a great deal of worthy knowledge in my book. I have dabbled in all sorts of music - old and new, near and far, common and exotic. As far as the broad 'classical' music scene goes, I have a strong love of Early and Medieval music - I still play my vinyl of Ricercare - The ancient Music Ensemble of Zurich. I'm well versed in all of the 'heavies' from Baroque to John Cage, with preferences for Dowland, Hildegard Von Bingen, Satie, Debussey, Faure, Messiaen, Hovaness, Xenakis, Chopin and Shoenberg.

You seem to have a strong music theory background, so I'll throw this old conundrum your way . . . When the album 'The Restful Mind' by Larry Coryell (and members of Oregon) came out in '75, the first track 'Improvisation On Robert De Visee's Menuet ll', re-ignited the rumour / myth at that time, that passages of 'China Cat' were inspired by De Visee. Are you familiar with that Coryell recording, and have you any insight as to whether or not there's truth to that tale, or is it all hogwash? You may be the one to put to rest a decades old speculation.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: bkidwell Date: Jul 24, 2011 2:46pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: improv style, jazz vs. classical, drama

I don't think there is any direct musical connection between the de Visee and China Cat. I'm not familiar with that Coryell album but I can't see how it could change my opinion.

I think China Cat is obviously influenced by a certain contrapuntal/baroque feel - Weir said it was the only song where Jerry gave him a totally specific part to play, so it's clear Jerry was trying to create some lines that fit together in a very defined way.

I suspect people have proposed the connection because that minuet is a very commonly used teaching piece for guitar students, and as a result musical elements which are common to a large amount of Baroque music might trigger people's association. I think people are just hearing the "short-short-long" rhythmic pattern and sequential use of scale fragments.